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Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 21:15 GMT 22:15 UK
Mbeki rapped over Zimbabwe
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, with South African President Thabo Mbeki in Zimbabwe last year
Mbeki: No knowledge of a possible coup in Zimbabwe
By Nick Childs in Johannesburg

South African President Thabo Mbeki has faced heated exchanges in parliament over the government's handling of the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has experienced increasing international isolation as a result of growing political violence in the country and the forced seizure of land from white farmers.


The South African Government has no information of any coup that has been planned in Zimbabwe

Thabo Mbeki
One opposition MP said Mr Mbeki's policy of quiet diplomacy has failed because the situation was continuing to deteriorate.

Mr Mbeki has also been under international pressure to take a harder line towards the authorities in Harare.

The South African president insists his government has never pursued quiet diplomacy and would continue to engage with Zimbabwe to find a solution.

But Mr Mbeki said the country's problems had accumulated over almost a century and resolving the crisis would take time.

Plans for coup

He also reiterated his government's denial of any knowledge about plans for a military coup in Zimbabwe.

Robert Mugabe
Reports of possible coup against Mr Mugabe if crisis deteriorates
This followed a report in Britain's The Guardian newspaper, saying senior officers in Zimbabwe had told the South African Government of their intention to mount a coup against the country's president, Robert Mugabe, if the political and economic crisis deteriorated.

"The South African Government has no information of any coup that has been planned in Zimbabwe," Mr Mbeki said.

"We are opposed to military coups and if we had any such information we would indeed inform the government of Zimbabwe," he added.

The head of Zimbabwe's armed forces also dismissed reports that the military was prepared to intervene against the government.

Crisis could spread

The BBC has learned of growing concern with the South African Government that Zimbabwe could face economic and political collapse and that the crisis could destabilise the entire region.

If that happened, South Africa would be in the front line, with the prospect of large numbers of refugees streaming south across the border.

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25 May 01 | Africa
Powell condemns President Mugabe
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